Men know instinctively that they are required to provide for their families. Whether they attribute this instinct to societal constructs, cultural tradition, or the inward revelation of the law of God in their hearts (cf. Rom. 2:15), makes little difference. The reality remains the same: as men, we know it is our responsibility to provide for our wives and children. The Scriptures testify that, not only is this a result of God’s law written on our hearts, the provision required by husbands and fathers extends beyond the mere physical—it includes the non-physical elements of life, too.
My contention is that the church of Christ will not see reformation in our time until husbands and fathers recognize the totality of their responsibility to provide. Now, let me qualify that statement, so that my Calvinistic credentials are not revoked by the Committee Appointed to the Defense of Sovereignty. I am not saying that revivals can be manufactured. I am not saying that, by men providing for their homes, revival can be demanded or squeezed out of God somehow. All true revival is a sovereign act of God’s Spirit, who moves like the wind (cf. Jn. 3:8). In fact, depending upon the way one looks at it, men taking up the responsibility to provide for their homes may be one fruit of true reformation itself. In either case, God uses means in the accomplishment of His purposes, and this is surely one of those means.
Okay, but didn’t I already say that men know instinctively that they are responsible to provide for their families? Yes, well, and no. The law of God is assuredly written on the heart, yet because of our sinful condition we do not understand that law as we ought. We know we are guilty of breaking it, but we are now entirely sure how we are to fulfill it. The propositional revelation of God in Scripture helps us in our sinfulness, and it helps husbands and fathers know how they ought to provide for their families.
Provision, according to Scripture, is holistic. It most assuredly includes material provision (cf. 1 Tim. 5:8), but it also includes more than this. Particularly, it includes a provision of the Word in the context of worship.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
Christ died for the church, in order that the church might in turn be sanctified through the Word. If you are in the church for which Christ died, you are being sanctified by the Word. That is the basic theological premise here, but the reason Paul brings this up is for the purpose of exhorting husbands. Husbands are called to love their wives sacrificially, as Christ, and for the same purpose as Christ. Christ sacrificed himself for the holiness and salvation of His church. Men are to sacrifice themselves for the holiness and salvation of their wives. The command here, if I can frame it like this, is simple: husbands are to sanctify their wives by the Scriptures.
How are husbands to do this? First and foremost, if husbands are required to provide the Word in the context of worship, they ought to take their wives to hear the Word proclaimed in corporate worship on the Sabbath. Note how the command to keep the Sabbath is directed at the heads of households.
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.
The Westminster Divines keenly picked up on this language, and pointed out the imperative here for the head of the household—i.e. the husband and father.
Q. 118. Why is the charge of keeping the Sabbath more specifically directed to governors of families, and other superiors?
A. The charge of keeping the Sabbath is more specially directed to governors of families, and other superiors, because they are bound not only to keep it themselves, but to see that it be observed by all those that are under their charge; and because they are prone oftentimes to hinder them by employments of their own.
(Westminster Larger Catechism)
Without getting into all the details here, let the basic point stand. Husbands, are you taking your wives to hear the Word taught faithfully? Are you taking your wives into the assembly of the saints? Are you honoring the Lord’s Day in your home? This is the first place to start providing the food of God’s Word for your family (Matt. 4:4).
Secondly is family worship. The obligation of men to teach the Word in their homes does not only fall on the Lord’s Day, but rather is obligatory every day of the week (Deut. 6:4-8). The home is to be an environment permeated by Scripture. Whenever you sit down to feed your family physically, remember that you are likewise privileged with feeding them spiritually. Open the Bible. Read Scripture. Exhort from Scripture. Teach about the great salvation that God was wrought in Christ, and call your family together at appointed times for singing, prayer, and Scripture teaching.
Husbands are to love their wives as they love themselves, as Paul said in Ephesians. So, let me ask you this. Do you find quiet time for prayer and meditation on God’s Word? Do you read the Scriptures for the nourishment of your own soul? I hope you can answer yes, to those questions. If you can, let those times of personal worship—a demonstration of devotion to God, and the care you take for your own soul—remind you to feed the soul of your wife as well.